March 9, 2008

Broncos Fall to Gonzaga in WCC Semifinal

March 9, 2008

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SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Bulldogs' Josh Heytvelt scored 15 points and No. 22 Gonzaga advanced to its 11th straight West Coast Conference tournament title game with a 52-48 win over Santa Clara on Sunday night.

Gonzaga (25-6) has won four consecutive WCC tournament titles, eight of nine and nine of the last 13. The Bulldogs made only five baskets in the second half, but survived by going 13-for-16 from the foul line.

"It was a hardened March tournament game and we had to dig down deep to find a way to win," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

The game was close throughout the second half with the biggest lead being held by Gonzaga at 49-44 after Matt Bouldin's steal and layup with 5:30 left.

Fourth-seeded Santa Clara (15-16) closed to 49-48 on Brody Angley's basket at the 5:51 mark. Neither team scored until Jeremy Pargo hit a pair of free throws with 35.2 seconds left. Angley then missed a 3-pointer on the Broncos' next possession.

Abdullahi Kuso was fouled after he rebounded the miss and made one of two foul shots with 12.6 seconds for the final margin. The Broncos missed on two 3-point attempts as the game ended.

The top-seeded Bulldogs, who gained a bye into the semifinals, shot just 5-of-16 in the second half, but made up for it with clutch free throw shooting.

"At the end of the game you have to go the line and make free throws," Pargo said. "Free throws win games and lose games. They won it for us tonight."

Bouldin, freshman Austin Daye and Micah Downs each scored eight points for Gonzaga, which shot just 42.1 percent from the floor. The game was played at a slow pace and was sloppy on both sides. The Bulldogs finished with 17 turnovers and Santa Clara had 15.

"We just didn't get to the free throw line," said Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating, whose team was 4-for-7 from the line. "I thought we did everything we had to do to win the game."

Angley finished with 13 points to lead the Broncos, who made just 41.3 percent of their shots and were outrebounded 30-22. John Bryant had 12 points and was not much of a factor. The 6-foot-10 Bryant was held in check one night after he had 25 points and 17 rebounds in a quarterfinals win.

"John Bryant's a load down there scoring," Few said. "Josh (Heytvelt) really played well tonight. I thought he played his best defensive game probably within his career."

The Broncos came into the game fresh off an 88-54 rout at Gonzaga on Monday in the final regular-season game. But Santa Clara, which lost both regular-season games to the Bulldogs, never let them build much of a lead.

"Gonzaga is a great team and it's hard to go out with a loss like this," Angley said.

The Broncos jumped in front 11-3 less than four minutes into the game, in large part due to three 3-pointers by Calvin Johnson. Gonzaga started the game cold, missing seven of its first eight shots.

But the Bulldogs got hot and made 10 of their next 13 shots. Heytvelt came off the bench and made three of four. His 3-pointer with 4:54 left pulled Gonzaga into a 24-24 tie. Daye gave the Bulldogs their first lead at 26-24 with a basket at the 3:48 mark.

"I was feeling good tonight," Heytvelt said. "I was just going out there and playing hard."

Gonzaga held a 28-25 halftime lead, making 50 percent of its shots from the field.

Bryant was held to six points on 3-of-9 shooting with three rebounds in the first half.